Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Splendid Century by W.H. Lewis

book cover
The Splendid Century
by W. H. Lewis


Hardcover: 306 pages
Publisher: William Sloane Associates
Released: 1953

Source: Bought at a used book sale.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Pleasures and palaces are, of course, a part of this vivid account of France under Louis XIV, but the author also explores the political, economic, social and artistic forces that developed during the long reign of the Sun-King.

The opening account of Louis XIV's private life and loves sets the pace for this provocative account of a century that was a time of transition, dissatisfaction and progress. This was the age of Moliere, Racine, Corneille...the age of the salons and the graceful correspondents. And also an age that sent thousands of Huguenots to the galleys, the notorious death ships that served as seventeenth-century concentration camps.


My Review:
The Splendid Century is a history covering various aspects of life in France during the reign of Louis XIV. The first chapter was mainly about the king's scandalous love life and grandiose beliefs about himself. The rest of the book talked about what life was like for everyone else.

The author researched records, correspondence, and journals to get the impressions of people living at that time. He discussed why Louis XIV set certain policies, how they worked out in reality, and you could see how this set things up for the people in later generations to decide they didn't need nobles and royalty at all.

The author talked about what life was like for nobles, especially those at court, and for commoners of all sorts. He covered the religious institutions and the religious conflicts, how the army had been organized and was re-organized, what life was like in the country and in the towns, how doctors were trained, how women were educated and how this changed, what life was like on galley ships and on passenger sailing ships, some of the court etiquette, and some well-known writers of the time.

No topic was covered in every detail, but he gave the reader a taste of what he thought was most interesting. I did not find every topic equally interesting, but I liked how he explained the impact of various actions and policies rather than simply giving facts. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in this period of French history if they don't mind the somewhat academic (e.g. "this is how the tax system worked") nature of parts of it.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik

This is another review done as a member of Amazon Vine, so I'm posting a description of the book with a direct link to my review on Amazon.

book cover
Stuff Matters
by Mark Miodownik


ISBN-13: 9780544236042
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Released: May 27, 2014

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Why is glass see-through? What makes elastic stretchy? Why does a paper clip bend? Why does any material look and behave the way it does? These are the sorts of questions that Mark Miodownik is constantly asking himself. A globally-renowned materials scientist, Miodownik has spent his life exploring objects as ordinary as an envelope and as unexpected as concrete cloth, uncovering the fascinating secrets that hold together our physical world.

From the teacup to the jet engine, the silicon chip to the paper clip, the plastic in our appliances to the elastic in our underpants, our lives are overflowing with materials. Full of enthralling tales of the miracles of engineering that permeate our lives, Stuff Matters will make you see stuff in a whole new way

My Review: Link to my review on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Natural Disasters That Changed the World by Rodney Castleden

book cover
Natural Disasters That Changed the World
by Rodney Castleden


ISBN-13: 9780785822288
Hardback: 576 pages
Publisher: Chartwell Books
Released: April 1, 2007

Source: Bought the book.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Contains 170 natural disasters, their causes, their impact on people and landscape, and their significance on the world around us.


My Review:
Natural Disasters That Changed the World is a world history viewed through brief accounts of the natural disasters that influenced history. While mainly about natural disasters, several shipwrecks were included even though the disaster was mainly caused by human error. Not every disaster had a clear "this changed the way we do things" summary at the end, though sometimes the point was how we keep building in areas or doing things that will lead to tragedy when the natural disaster strikes again.

Even with a book this thick, it would have been difficult for the author to go in-depth on 170 different disasters. He briefly described the mechanics of how each type of natural disaster (hurricane, earthquake, tornado, landslide, flooding, etc.) occurs at least once in the book. Most of the entries were about 2 pages long and read like a newspaper report--this happened at this time, then this happened, and this much damage was done." From the back cover description I'd read, I expected a lot of first-hand reports of what it was like to live through the event, but first-hand accounts were rarely given and usually brief.

Overall, the book was interesting, but the disasters all started to sound similar by the end of the book. The events chosen for the pre-history part of the book were speculative and vague, and I didn't really get any value out of them. I think I would have enjoyed more details and first-hand accounts for fewer--though significant--disasters rather than such brief overviews.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Sea and Civilization by Lincoln Paine

This is another review done as a member of Amazon Vine, so I'm posting a description of the book with a direct link to my review on Amazon.

book cover
The Sea and Civilization
by Lincoln Paine


ISBN-13: 9781400044092
Hardcover: 784 pages
Publisher: Knopf
Released: October 29, 2013

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
A monumental retelling of world history through the lens of maritime enterprise, revealing in breathtaking depth how people first came into contact with one another by ocean and river, lake and stream, and how goods, languages, religions, and entire cultures spread across and along the world’s waterways, bringing together civilizations and defining what makes us most human.

Lincoln Paine takes us back to the origins of long-distance migration by sea with our ancestors’ first forays from Africa and Eurasia to Australia and the Americas. He demonstrates the critical role of maritime trade to the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley. He reacquaints us with the great seafaring cultures of antiquity like those of the Phoenicians and Greeks, as well as those of India and Southeast and East Asia, who parlayed their navigational skills, shipbuilding techniques, and commercial acumen to establish thriving overseas colonies and trade routes in the centuries leading up to the age of European expansion. And finally, his narrative traces how commercial shipping and naval warfare brought about the enormous demographic, cultural, and political changes that have globalized the world throughout the post–Cold War era.

My Review: Link to my review on Amazon.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Back to Normal by Enrico Gnaulati

This is another review done as a member of Amazon Vine, so I'm posting a description of the book with a direct link to my review on Amazon.

book cover
Back to Normal
by Enrico Gnaulati


ISBN-13: 9780807073346
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Beacon Press
Released: September 17, 2013

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
A veteran clinical psychologist exposes why doctors, teachers, and parents incorrectly diagnose healthy American children with serious psychiatric conditions.

In recent years there has been an alarming rise in the number of American children and youth assigned a mental health diagnosis. Current data from the Centers for Disease Control reveal a 41 percent increase in rates of ADHD diagnoses over the past decade and a forty-fold spike in bipolar disorder diagnoses. Similarly, diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder, once considered, has increased by 78 percent since 2002.

Dr. Enrico Gnaulati, a clinical psychologist specializing in childhood and adolescent therapy and assessment, has witnessed firsthand the push to diagnose these disorders in youngsters. Drawing both on his own clinical experience and on cutting-edge research, with Back to Normal he has written the definitive account of why our kids are being dramatically overdiagnosed—and how parents and professionals can distinguish between true psychiatric disorders and normal childhood reactions to stressful life situations.

My Review: Link to my review on Amazon.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor by Gregory S. Aldrete

This is another review done as a member of Amazon Vine, so I'm posting a description of the book with a direct link to my review on Amazon.

book cover
Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor
by Gregory S. Aldrete


ISBN-13: 9781421408194
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Released: March 1, 2013

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Alexander the Great led one of the most successful armies in history and conquered nearly the entirety of the known world while wearing armor made of cloth. How is that possible?

An extensive multiyear project in experimental archaeology, this pioneering study presents a thorough investigation of the linothorax, linen armor worn by the Greeks, Macedonians, and other ancient Mediterranean warriors. Because the linothorax was made of cloth, no examples of it have survived. Combining traditional textual and archaeological analysis with hands-on reconstruction and experimentation, the authors unravel the mysteries surrounding the linothorax. They have collected and examined all of the literary, visual, historical, and archaeological evidence for the armor and detail their efforts to replicate the armor using materials and techniques that are as close as possible to those employed in antiquity.

By reconstructing actual examples using authentic materials, the authors were able to scientifically assess the true qualities of linen armor for the first time in 1,500 years. The tests reveal that the linothorax provided surprisingly effective protection for ancient warriors, that it had several advantages over bronze armor, and that it even shared qualities with modern-day Kevlar.

My Review: Link to my review on Amazon.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bird Homes and Habitats by Bill Thompson III

This is another review done as a member of Amazon Vine, so I'm posting a description of the book with a direct link to my review on Amazon.

book cover
Bird Homes and Habitats
by Bill Thompson III


ISBN-13: 9780618904464
Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Released: September 10, 2013

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Which birds use nest boxes? What’s required to maintain a birdhouse? What kind of habitat will attract which birds? What does it take to be a bluebird trail operator? What does it mean if baby birds or eggs disappear from their nest?

It’s easy enough to hang a birdfeeder. But there are plenty of other things that can attract birds to a landscape—and, in fact, birds need four essentials: food, water, shelter, and a place to nest. The more of these elements a yard has, the more attractive it is to birds.

My Review: Link to my review on Amazon.